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Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Living in Student Residences abroad

-By Troy

I’m about ten weeks into my Study Abroad student exchange program at the University of Exeter in the UK.

As the semester comes to a close so does a crazy couple of months that has been living on campus.

I have lived in share houses many times before, from Brunswick to Hawthorn to Clifton Hill. Equally, I am lucky to have travelled a little bit across the USA, Canada and now the UK and I'm quite comfortable staying in hostels and backpackers. But NOTHING could have prepared me for putting 48 international students together in the one apartment block!

The first two weeks of semester,  there were parties just about every night. Every Sunday morning somewhere on campus, a kitchen looked like some kind of disaster zone from cramming a million people in there for drinking, socialising and debauchery!

As semester rolls along, you eventually find that assessments are due and you can’t be out every night. But you hear the music or the laughter drifting from your window or down the hallway and you are tempted to go and join in!

Living on campus has many perks. Everything is provided for: Internet, bills, rent- everything is included. You are walking distance to classes; you can quite easily roll out of bed 15 minutes before a lecture if you really want. For me, the campus gym is only a 10-minute walk away and the supermarket is an easy 15-minute stroll.

There is always someone to talk to and hang out with. I made toast at 2am last week and ended up chatting to my French comrades for an hour! During the first week we held an international dinner night where everyone cooked something from home. You are exposed to new cultures, new ways of doing things.

Of course there are also challenges! Sometimes you just need your own space, and it’s hard to have this with twelve others on the same floor as you. Noise can be problematic at night. Social politics and alliances emerge within the flat. Romantic relationships begin and evolve; jealousy and gossip can be sure to follow.

Coming back to the kitchen; with no common area, this has been the natural gathering point for each floor and never has it been such contentious ground to navigate. Food gets eaten, fridge space becomes a battleground, and people have no clue how to wash up or put away dishes.

After all the water restrictions we've had back home, I was horrified when several of my flat mates washed their dishes under a running tap! In light of all this, I thought it might be useful to offer some strategies that have worked for us over here:

  • Establish a weekly garbage and recycling roster early on.
  • Set up a Facebook Group for your floor as a forum to deal with issues as they come up. Drama is tough but don't avoid it!
  • Split costs of expendables such as dishwashing liquid and toilet paper. Set aside a shelf or something to keep these things and make sure to contribute.
  • Wash up your dishes after meals and put them away.
  • Make your bedroom your own space where you can go if you need some timeout.
  • Buy earplugs for the nights you need to study or sleep and can’t party. 
  • Maximise services offered on campus such as the gym and the medical centre. These things are there to help you. 
  • Get involved and get interested! So many cultures and new perspectives on life to learn about! 
Make the most of the parties and meeting new people. All the students living on campus are going through the same things as you. There are lifelong friendships to be formed even when you are on the other side of the world. I now have friends all over America, Canada and Europe who I can visit in the coming years!

Good luck and have fun!


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